Be Consistent!

Kindergarten teacher helping students with writing skills

Be consistent! From my earliest days in undergraduate education studies, these two words were embedded into my classes. Professors were always talking about consistency. Students need you to be consistent. They need you to be consistent with your discipline policies, they need you to be consistent with your routines, they need you to be consistent with your grading system, and they need you to be consistent with your attitudes and personality.

I was taught that many students come from very inconsistent and unstable lives and it was my job to give them some consistency and stability. Students need to know that they can count on what I say and that if it’s due on Monday that means Monday. Student’s need to know that my grading system will be fair and that Susie’s paper will be graded exactly like Johnny’s. So for the last twenty-four years, that is what I have tried to do.

Because you see, I understand the need for consistency, I do my best work when I know exactly what is expected of me. I can and will rise to the occasion when given consistent, clear, and concise expectations.

But today, I am having trouble seeing the consistency in the way we are treating our students. Since 2009, my state mathematics standards have changed four times. Since 2009 the state test for my mathematics students has changed four times. That is not consistency.

Over the last three years, I have been told repeatedly that previous test questions would be released so that transparency could be achieved in our state tests. Over and over the date that these questions would be released has changed. In June, I attended a state-run workshop in which all of the educators who were present were told these questions would be released in “the fall”. The questions were not released until months later. That is not consistency.

I have been given logins and passwords for EdTools, Randa, TN Compass, Mica Time, Questar Nextera, and the TN Department of Education SSO login, which was supposed to be used for all logins (although that’s not the case.) I have been given access to the Pearson Testing site, the Mica Time testing site and most recently the Questar Nextera testing site. That is not consistency.

I have been told that when the CAB system gets fully operational there will be lots of resources from which I can make practice tests. In reality, when it finally opened in mid-January, half way through the school year, there were only 17 questions available for the subject I teach, representing only one third of my state standards. That is not consistency.

I have been told that I MUST make my students take the online practice test because it will help them be familiar with the operations of the actual test. Then I am given statement to read to my students that says, “The test is not operationally the same as the practice test.” Then, why was it so important for me to spend three days of instructional time practicing it. That is not consistency.

I have been given scripts to read to my students during the test with words left out of sentences. I have been told to instruct my students to change or omit certain questions because they were written incorrectly. That is not consistency.

I have been told that the state test would count 20% of my student’s semester grade and then 25% of their grade and then finally it didn’t count at all. I have been told it will count as 35% of my evaluation then no let’s make it 15%, then 25% then again 35%. That is not consistency.

I have been told that my TVASS scores are correct and that all tests are graded correctly. But wait, that’s not the case either. Tests were graded incorrectly and TVASS scores had to be changed. Actually, I am not even sure they were ever changed. That is not consistency.

I have been told that Questar is ready to go and the state expects a smooth testing season. But wait, that didn’t happen either. Teachers and students alike are tired of being lied to, manipulated, judged and measured by a system that is neither fair nor consistent.  Enough is enough.

A frustrated teacher in Tennessee,

Betsy G

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Betsy G is a high school teacher in Tennessee and member of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee. To schedule an interview please contact Audrey Shores, Director of Communications, at 1-800-471-4867 ext.102.

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